Another Okita tale about a small community populated by slightly eccentric characters
Shuichi Okita, with a very personal style, delicate but assertive at the same time, has made himself known and appreciated on the festival circuits and in less mainstream circles with films that are difficult to label, often qualified as “dramedy”. it is a mixture of drama and comedy. As in “The Woodsman and The Rain”, “The Chef of South Polar” and “Mori: The Artist’s Habitat”, the backdrop of “The Mohican Comes Home” is also a small community on an imaginary island in the inland sea. de Soto, off the coast of Hiroshima, where Okita places one of his typical characters, always dazed and looking out of place.
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This time it’s Eichiki (Ryuhei Matsuda), the titular “Mohican” (because of his haircut), who 7 years earlier had left his hometown for Tokyo, in search of work and glory in a death metal band. Eichiki hasn’t had much luck in Tokyo and, to complicate matters, his girlfriend Yuka (Atsuko Maeda) is now pregnant. Therefore, he decides it’s time to pay a quick visit to the parents and break the news. A confusing welcome awaits him at home. His mother, after his 7-year absence, only seems surprised because Eichiki didn’t call before arriving, and his father Osamu (Akira Emoto) first calls him a wimp by slapping him then organizes a big party with friends to celebrate son and future grandson.
The party ends – in every way – with Osamu being taken to the hospital due to illness. Unfortunately, it is not a hangover, and the family learns that he has neglected and now incurable cancer. Eichiki therefore decides to spend more time with the family, and the narrative gracefully and lightly follows Eichiki and Osamu’s path through death and birth. The two are not as different as it seems. Osamu is also a musician, manager and trainer of the island’s junior brass band, and also a big fan of rock music, in particular of Hiroshima artist Eikichi Yazawa, legendary rocker of the 70s/80s. In his honor – with stubborn stubbornness – he insists on having the marching band play his (totally and comically inappropriate) songs. Osamu’s group of kids is a great source of funny gags throughout the film, and it also functions as a quirky bridge between father and son.
Okita knows how to ease the tension of a sad story and, as in his previous works, he indulges in the comic effect of contrasts to achieve this. Eichiki with his green banana appears totally out of place on the island but, at the same time, the boy’s silent and calm character makes him seem comfortable everywhere and his role evolves before our eyes, from degenerate son to conscious son. Matsuda makes good use of his enigmatic stone face that never seems to be tampered with emotion and wows us in some touching and tender moments.
The relationship between father and son is the pivot of the story, around which revolve the female characters, secondary but never predictable. Yuka is a cheerfully simple young woman, utterly unaware of any form of neurosis, and she develops a sweet, conniving bond with Eichiki’s mother (a gorgeous Masako Motai), an avid fan of the local baseball team, eschewing the stereotype banal of the mother-in-law. dynamic daughter-in-law/daughter-in-law. In short, the Tamuras, eccentric and sympathetic, strengthen these family ties which had only appeared to be weakened, without falling into old-fashioned sentimentality and showing great openness to tolerance and acceptance. The positive and sunny character of the characters is reinforced by the clear and warm light of the 4 islands where the film was shot, revealing once again the great attachment to rural Japan of the director, who – like Eichiki – settled in Tokyo. to follow his own dream.
“The Mohican Comes Home” written and directed by Shuichi Okita, is a feature film, like the director’s other works and my only comment is that it takes a while to get into his mind, but it’s also an easy movie to love because it takes up once again, with grace and irony, his favorite tales of small communities populated by gently wacky characters.